If you keep your cat indoors, you are doing a lot to protect her health and life. As much as cats love to prowl around outdoors, there are so many dangers that many cat experts recommend keeping your cat inside.
But there are ways to allow your indoor cat to enjoy the outdoors and keep her safe. One fairly expensive way is to buy or build an outdoor enclosure. A less expensive way is to get a kitty stroller. And the cheapest way (you guessed it) is to walk your cat on a leash.
Now, we won’t kid you – the leash option is the most difficult as far as convincing your cat this is a great idea. (If you have a kitten or young cat, you’ll have a much better shot at training.) But, it also could offer the most rewards for your cat. An enclosure provides the feel of the outdoors, freedom of movement, and a 360° view, though the scene doesn’t change much, and she won’t get much exercise. A kitty stroller provides more variety of scenery, but doesn’t give your cat a paws-on experience (or any exercise!) But it could help you get in shape!
A cat leash gives your kitty the opportunity to feel the grass, attack blowing leaves, roll around, and explore. Once you’ve trained your cat, outdoor adventures on a leash will awaken your cat’s senses and provide mental stimulation. If your cat training goes well, it could also lead to a fair amount of exercise – for the both of you.
How to Leash Train Your Cat
The first thing you need for training is a harness or walking jacket, made just for cats (not for small dogs) and a cat leash. Some people prefer a bungee-type cat leash, which is gentler should your cat lurch. Always attach the leash to the harness or jacket, never the collar. Make sure kitty is wearing a cat collar, and an ID tag, just in case she gets away from you.
Next you need to provide some gentle and patient cat training! The first step is to allow your cat to “own” the harness. Leave it out for at least a week, allowing your cat to sniff it, mark it, drag it around – whatever makes her comfortable. Then begin having your cat associate the harness with pleasure. Talk to her in a comforting voice as you try to slip it on. If she cooperates, praise her and give her something she loves, like a treat, a good petting or a toy. If she resists, give up and try training again later. Cat training can take weeks!
Once you’ve trained your cat to wear a harness, let her wear it for very short periods of time indoors, and make that time pleasurable.
Let her own the leash as well. Eventually, attach the leash to the harness and let your cat get used to it inside. Give her a treat if she doesn’t pull. If she does pull, stand still until she behaves. As soon as she stops pulling, give her a treat, or toy or whatever pleases her.
Once you train your cat to accept the walking gear, take her outside, where there will be no dogs or traffic or anything scary. If she’s afraid, take her back inside. Your first outings should be brief. Don’t expect to walk your cat like you would a dog (which also takes training!) Follow your cat’s lead and let her get used to the idea.
If you get the knack of training her, and your cat likes walking on a leash, you may be able to take her on a real walk down a sidewalk on a quiet street and get some exercise. And if your cat loves it, walking on a leash may be something she insists upon. Daily.
More stories on cat training and exercise:
Your Cat Can Help You Get in Shape?